Tasmania 2000: the year in review

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Tasmania 2000: the year in review

It has been a full year for Tasmania, with ongoing negotiations over new industrial relations legislation, a pay equity principle being handed down, and changes to both the state and federal industrial relations commissions.

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It has been a full year for Tasmania, with ongoing negotiations over new industrial relations legislation, a pay equity principle being handed down, and changes to both the state and federal industrial relations commissions.

Legislation

Like Victoria, the Tasmanian Government has had a troubled time getting its new industrial legislation up. It has done it, but only after a year of wrangling and with greatly reduced expectations of what it was able to deliver.

Two weeks ago, IR Minister Peter Patmore reintroduced the Bill with amendments. It had previously been scuppered in the Upper House after nearly a year of consultation and intense lobbying of conservative politicians by employer organisations.

The amendments included removing clauses which allowed for:

  • the deduction of union fees by an employer;
  • allowing unions right of entry where there were potential (rather than actual) union members;
  • giving unfair dismissal applicants 28 days to lodge their forms (this has been brought back to 21 days);
  • the public interest test which would have applied to enterprise agreements; and
  • public scrutiny of enterprise agreements.

And while Patmore also watered down his original plans for a ‘no net detriment’ test, which would have compared a new agreement to existing awards and agreements, in favour of a 'no disadvantage' test, the Bill’s opponents insisted on more changes.

The Bill eventually passed the Upper House last week with a significantly weaker ‘fair in all the circumstances’ test.

Wins for Patmore included scrapping the Enterprise Commissioner, instead giving all TIC members the power to approve enterprise agreements. The Bill also defines trainees and outworkers as employees.

For further information, see previous stories: 

  • 'No disadvantage' test likely to scupper Tasmanian IR laws; and
  • Patmore reintroduces doomed Tas IR legislation.
Pay equity

Within a week of NSW women workers receiving a mechanism to take cases for equal pay before the state’s Industrial Relations Commission, the Tasmanian Industrial Commission handed down another principle, a very different beast from the other, remaining silent on remedies.

A full bench of the Commission, led by former President Fred Westwood, rejected the draft principle put forward by the Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council, which suggested various ways pay inequity could be addressed, and said comparisons of work value across and within industries was an 'essential' ingredient. 

The bench said it was not empowered by law to answer Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Jocelynne Scutt’s call for a work skills value inquiry. It would need Parliament to change the Act before it could instigate such an inquiry – even if it had the power, the bench said, it would have called for a wider inquiry.

The bench said the principle suggested by the TTLC and Anti-Discrimination Commissioner was too prescriptive and went too far at this stage, and that a principle should be adopted now that could be developed over time.

Like NSW, the Tasmanian principle was created as part of the State’s amended wage fixing principles and, also like that state, does not deal with over-awards or agreements.

For more information, see previous stories: 

  • Don't rely on equal pay principles: Tas Commissioner; 
  • Tasmanian women granted pay equity principle; and 
  • Tasmania follows NSW lead on pay equity.
Workers’ compensation

A Bill bringing major changes to workers’ compensation in Tasmania passed through the Legislative Council earlier this month. Common law actions will now be limited to 30% of whole-of-body benefits, with no cap on weekly benefits, paid to 10 years. Previously, there were unfettered benefits, with a cap.

People

AIRC Commissioner Patricia Leary has been appointed as President of the Tasmanian Industrial Commission, following the retirement of former President Fred Westwood in July. Commissioner Leary also becomes Deputy President of the AIRC from January 1. TIC Deputy President Bevan Johnson retired on the same date as President Westwood. The pay equity decision was the final decision for the two retiring members. The new deputy president is former commissioner Bob Watling and the head of the TCCI, Tim Abey, became a new commissioner.

The Tasmanian Trades and Labor Council decided to leave 2000 by shedding its old name and taking on a new public identity as Unions Tasmania. Following in the footsteps of Unions WA and the Queensland Council of Unions, secretary Lynne Fitzgerald said the name ‘better reflects what we are... a collective of unions’.

Fitzgerald said there had been confusion with the old name. ‘We represent working people at all levels – not just trades – and neither the TTLC nor all unions are affiliated with the Labor Party.’

Unions Tasmania will be the public name of the peak body, while it retains the TTLC title for legal and historical reasons.

See previous stories:

  • Tasmania, Queensland, HREOC all waiting on Commission appointments; and 
  • Tasmanian women granted pay equity principle.
Other States:
  • Queensland 2000: the year in review
  • New South Wales 2000: the year in review
  • Victoria 2000: the year in review
  • South Australia 2000: the year in review
  • Western Australia 2000: the year in review

 

 

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